April 23, 2014

The South Korean government has announced plans to invest 2.4 billion won ($2.3 million) this year to set up 3D printing centers aiming to put South Korea at the forefront of the developing industry. The program will provides space and 3D printers (mainly imported) to small and medium sized companies where company employees would take part in on-site activities and learn how to use the 3D printers.

The Industry Ministry and Science Ministry received approval yesterday for their plan at a science and technology committee meeting with other ministers and private sector experts, Korea JoongAng Daily reports.

As 3D printing technology advances and becomes more widespread, the possibility of moving from prototype production to manufacturing high-quality parts fast and on site is not far off. As 3D printers decline in cost and improve in resolution, the government hopes the 3D printing technology will simplify the supply chain and enable reduction of expensive and energy-squandering inefficiencies in the local electronics, auto and medical industries, as well as the consumer goods production.

The government also announced that starting next year, individual businesses and small companies could lease 3D printers from the ministry for free. The government believes 3D printing could help reducing research and development costs for small businesses. While producing a traditional machined mold or other tooling for a single prototype can require several million won and weeks or months of time, 3D printing enables production of the same part, often overnight, for only the cost of materials.

Meanwhile the South Korean government will also invest in the projects of software development for 3D printers. The science and education ministries plan to include 3D printing in their software curriculums in high schools and at colleges, allowing participating schools to explore potential benefits and challenges of using this technology. The industry and science ministries intend to build a smartphone app store selling printable digital contents to get more people inspired by the possibilities of 3D printing technology.

The global 3D printer market is currently dominated by US firms. According to Wohlers Associates, Korea's 3D printing industry generated revenues worth around $29 million in 2012, which is only about 2.3 percent of the global market. The government hopes, with these programs, to make at least five Korean companies globally competitive. It is expected the projects would fuel its growth in the industry and Korean companies would generate about 15 percent of output for the whole 3D printing market by 2020.

Posted in 3D Printing Technology

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